And the Oxford Dictionaries 2015 Word of the Year is…

Written by Edgar Ramirez on .


An emoji.

Not THE word "emoji," but AN emoji (officially, the "Face with Tears of Joy" emoji, as it is called.) They say there's a first time for everything and in this case, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is a pictograph for the first time ever. And you, Pittsburgh, technically have yourself to thank (or blame, depending on what your feelings are about this.)

If you recall from our August "Digs" post, the viral smiley face — :) — was born here in Pittsburgh. That simple creation has spawned the evolution of emojis since then.


(Carnegie Mellon professor Scott E. Fahlman, shown in his home office in September 2007. Photo by Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

So what exactly is an emoji? According to the Oxford Dictionary

  • An emoji is ‘a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication’; the term emoji is a loanword from Japanese, and comes from e ‘picture’ + moji ‘letter, character’. The similarity to the English word emoticon has helped its memorability and rise in use, though the resemblance is actually entirely coincidental: emoticon (a facial expression composed of keyboard characters, such as ;), rather than a stylized image) comes from the English words emotion and icon.

So why the emoji? "There were other strong contenders from a range of fields. ... But [face with tears of joy emoji] was chosen as the ‘word’ that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015," Oxford says in the post.

"Emojis (the plural can be either emoji or emojis) have been around since the late 1990s, but 2015 saw their use, and use of the word emoji, increase hugely." Oxford goes on to explain that it partnered with SwiftKey, a leading mobile technology business, "to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emoji across the world, and [face with tears of joy emoji] was chosen because it was the most used emoji globally in 2015."

You can take a look of said frequency emoji use in the map here.

Among other words that made the cut (but didn't get the top honor): 

  • Brexit (noun): A term for the potential or hypothetical departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

  • ad blocker (noun): A piece of software designed to prevent advertisements from appearing on a web page.

  • refugee (noun): A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster.



  • lumbersexual (noun): A young urban man who cultivates an appearance and style of dress (typified by a beard and checked shirt) suggestive of a rugged outdoor lifestyle.

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